I discovered my farmer neighbor had a wonderful patch of Wild Concord Grapes. I stopped and asked her if I could pick them, if she wasn’t going to be using them. She told me to go ahead and pick all of them. By the time I was done I had picked 13lbs of wild grapes. Now I have more than a gallon 1/2 of grape juice to process into grape jelly ! One thing that is different with processing grapes is that after you drip the grape pulp you need to let the juice sit overnight to prevent formation of tartrate crystals in the jelly. I want to get as much out of the juice as possible so I am cutting the grape juice in half with home made apple pectin. Cutting the juice in half has two advantages: 1. It still tastes like grape jelly 2. I will be able to make more jars of jelly!
Of course I used it to dye some naturally felted hair/wool from our sheep. I added some vinegar to the warm beet cooking liquid and let it soak overnight. I rinsed it in the morning and the felted piece turned a nice purple pink color! I was cooking the beets so I could pickle them,but it left me with large amounts of purple liquid and as I was going to dump the pot in the sink I had a brainstorm and poured it into a plastic bin. I have many pieces of cleaned felted pelts from our sheep, most have been removed from the sheep by snipping the pelt that is barely hanging on or sometimes the felted pelt is rubbed off on a low tree branch. I suspect that the felted coat makes them very itchy and the sheep will work very hard to remove it.
The majority of our sheep are hair sheep (Katahdin/Dorper X) ,but we do have some ewes who are wooly/hair crosses. The wool/hair combination leads to the increased possibility of having a felted coat and it means that every 2 or 3 years I have to have those girls shorn with the other wooly girls.
I have canned over 800 jars since August 2014………….I find it amazing that at the end of the last canning season I hadn’t even canned 650 jars. My canning season starts officially in August and most often ends in May. Right now I am finishing the tomato season with slicing tomatoes that I will core,peel ,skin and cut them up to put in bags to make stewed tomatoes or Sweet tomato chutney during the late fall and winter. The freezer is full of bags of peaches in syrup , strawberries ,raspberries,blueberries and cranberries . This week my husband and I have been canning local Hot peppers, making jalapeno jelly with mint and the last of the roasted pizza passata.
The sheep and goats always enjoy this time of year as they get all the fruit/vegetable pomace, veggie peelings and excess sweet pickling liquid. The Donkey is enjoying the fall as she loves to eat the oak and Hickory leaves.
I have a young laying hen who we had to take out of the hen house as she was getting picked on . I took her out when I found her with her head all bloody and she was trying to get to the water bowl. She had lost weight and I placed her in the basement in a small dog crate and she spent most of the first day drinking and eating. After two days I started letting her run around the barn and then would collect her in the evening. She comes when I call ” Miss Chicken” and she doesn’t particularly like the crate but she gets to eat when she is in there. She has finally healed up and I need to put her back in the coop, but I have to do it at night after the light has gone out in the hen house. This way the the other chickens will be more willing to accept her …we shall see.
Late nights and 582 jars so far and it’s only September 22nd….I have at least 400 jars left in the basement to fill before March 2015. I was lucky last week to receive 3 dozen ears of corn from our master gardener and made some excellent corn & zucchini relish (which I have never made before) and the leftover corn went into the freezer. I have picked over 30lbs of blueberries,20lbs of raspberries and 40lbs of strawberries. I now have a very local source for tomatoes to make roasted Pizza passata , tomato chutney and lemony tomato basil soup! My problem will be keeping up with the bounty! Working a job outside of the farm makes all day canning difficult. I try to have some days that are just harvesting and prepping fruit and veggies and then 2 or 3 days of all canning ,trying to finish 3 to 5 different canning recipes.
All Day I have been roasting tomatoes,garlic,shallots and herbs in the oven ,while the top of the stove has a canner and a pot with Damson plum preserves in it and I am due to can it in 10 minutes! The bounty this week begins with cucumbers and they are just the tips of the iceberg,along with peppers to cut up and freeze and the apples to make apple marmalade tomorrow. I still have 12 lbs of tomatoes still to roast but my husband peeled all the garlic and shallots,I just need to use the mandolin to cut them thinly over the tray of tomatoes and herbs. I still have some plums & nectarines to make into jams and preserves, which are delicious by the way! To all those canners out there………Stay Calm and keep canning.
If your interested in using homemade apple pectin,WE HAVE IT! The most recent batch of apple pectin was made with Wealthy apples from Gould Hill Farm in Contoocook, NH . Homemade apple pectin gives jam and jelly a softer set and will hold the set for 10 months to 1 year. Use it when your recipe calls for liquid pectin.
Canning season is in full swing! My husband and I have been picking blueberries and raspberries in the morning and then prep them for the freezer . After I typically start the canner and begin getting my ingredients together for the recipes I plan to can that day.. As I am prepping or canning in the evening my husband and I are listening to the Red Sox games. I have to say that the results of my canning are turning out better than the Red sox games have.
We have a farmer friend Joe Pustizzi who has honor system pick your own blueberries and raspberries. Picking blueberries this year is like picking grapes, so far we have picked 30lbs of blueberries. We are hoping to pick another 20lbs and Joe planted a variety of blueberry bushes that will ripen right into the fall which gives us a longer window in which we can harvest the berries,Thanks Joe!
I will leave you with a sad note…….our pear tree, we have very few pears this year,maybe 50 …….so sad to see the tree so empty. I am assuming that when the tree bloomed it was too cold for the pollinators and then we had a heavy rain that wiped out the blossoms leading to fewer pears. So there won’t be any pear preserves or jam, but I do still have 15 pints of pickled pears for sale! Remember there is always next year…so keep your fingers crossed.
April and May were very dry and cool ,while June has been wet with occasional heat waves.The Iris have been amazing and the lilacs were a disappointment.
We don’t have many flowers around our property as the sheep and the goats are used to mow the lawn and they would eat the flowers and anything that is in the yard . I think that if I didn’t use the goats and sheep to mow the lawn I could have a lovely perennial garden. But if the goats and sheep aren’t mowing the lawn,I would have to mow the lawn…. I hate to mow the lawn,so the sheep and goats keep their job and I will still have my Iris in June and the local day lilies in July to brighten up my lawn!
The Month of May has just flown by.We have been busy putting up more permanent fence and chasing sheep who are determined to jump any low or sagging piece of electronet. In order to keep the sheep from jumping the fence we ordered more rolls of the tallest electronet and it arrives today.
We woke up on Friday morning last week to find out that some predator ate our rooster Rocky…he was such a nice rooster and was awesome at protecting the hens from aerial predators. We miss him!
We are in the middle of May and I look at the calendar in amazement. Where did the month of April go? Wasn’t there snow on the ground a little while ago? Now all I see is clouds of black flies framed on a light green background. The landscape is getting greener, the asparagus are coming up and the chicks are bigger and look less ugly. I love this time of year as we have access to our own asparagus,eggs and greens from local farmers and we are enjoying each dish and every bite!
We are moving along with our permanent fencing and have endured black fly attacks ,escaping/leaping sheep and the ticks that are trying to make us miserable.
But I wouldn’t give up this time of year for the world. I love the change from the light green,somewhat bleak spring landscape to the green leafy cool of the summer forest. Earlier this week at dusk while I was walking by a neighbors farm and the noise made by the peepers was deafening . At the same time I could here the pair of loons on Walker Pond just south east of our property line. Yes, as my mother would say “Spring has sprung”!
My mother was trained as a dietitian and she was also an excellent cook! She always said ” the food has to be colorful to make it appetizing. My mothers favorite cookbook is called ” Food for Fifty”.
Both my parent’s cooked,but they each had specialities. My mom made superior gravy,souffle and delicious meals with very few ingredients, my dad made terrific meatloaf , pancakes, jams & relishes.
My parent’s were both very supportive of my learning to cook. My father took my first failed loaf of bread and shellacked it and used it as a doorstop!